Happiness Boot Camp: This Recruit Focused on What’s Important

A few weeks ago I signed on to participate in a happiness “Boot Camp.” Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, devised a program for me and I agreed to share the results on an episode of The Katie Show. To make it easier to document, The Katie Show sent me a video camera to record my adventures. Fun stuff!

Based on my answers to a questionnaire and a phone interview, Gretchen outlined a plan for me that included two “resolutions” and one “challenge.” The resolutions were designed to help me (1) reconnect with my high school sweetheart husband Michael now that our youngest is off to college and (2) look at my many possessions with an eye toward keeping the truly meaningful ones and eliminating the rest.  I was excited at the prospect of tackling my resolutions, figuring that at the end of the two weeks I could only be happier, but I flinched in fear when I read what Gretchen suggested as my “challenge.”

Day 1: I started with the resolution about my possessions; unlike my husband Michael, possessions don’t talk back so I had free reign. As the years have spun by I’ve become sort of weighed down by my many things. The items that used to buoy me up and give me pleasure – vintage clothing and jewelry, for example — now feel like burdens on my back; they take up psychic space as well as physical space. And they may even contribute to my aching back. I have items dating back to my childhood that I’ve carried from home to home over many decades. And I was more than ready to sort, parse and separate the meaningful – my Mom’s wedding day headpiece and gloves — from the meaningless – my grandmother’s old slippers.  I jumped at the chance to “make the time” to make a dent in that stuff.

Behind each closed drawer is … stuff, stuff and more … stuff.

Water bottle in hand and boxes, plastic bags and suitcases at the ready, I faced the wall of built-in drawers on my third floor. Closed the drawers looked innocent enough, but I knew what lurked within — my children’s precious school papers and projects dating back to pre-school, hand-made (by me) dresses my daughter had outgrown, my son’s Scouting clothes, newspapers from when JFK was assassinated, clipping that dated back to my high school athletics, photos and postcards from my college travels, some of my childhood toys, vintage clothing and accessories, collectibles – all neatly folded and stacked.

Some of the items that will be sold on eBay.

Into one pile went the Biscuit books my daughter Tory loved and the passed-down-in-my-husband’s-family baptism clothes that my son Max wore. Into another went my now faded and worn childhood toys. One day rolled into another and I kept sorting through those drawers. I pulled out collectibles and posted them for sale on eBay; I filled four suitcases full of vintage clothing and accessories and hauled them to Vintage Alley, a vintage resale shop in nearby Verona, NJ; the owner purchased almost two suitcases full of items. More days passed and I took 15 containers of stuff to Goodwill. The two-week happiness adventure is over, but I’m not done yet.

<Sniff>My daughter Tory asked me to save all of the dresses I’d made her over the years. She plans to keep them.

A back injury has slowed me down, at least for now, but I am determined to continue my sorting, examining and eliminating. The more I do, the better I feel!

My son Max asked me to put aside his Cub Scout gear; it’s a keeper for my Eagle Scout.

Did you ever think that if you get rid of enough stuff that it will free up enough of your psychic energy that you could, say, write a book? Or accomplish something else you want to try? It’s a thought.


P.S. The Katie Show segment I taped with two other happiness “Boot Camp” recruits on October 11 has not aired; however, the show that day did focus on happiness, including Gretchen Rubin’s new book.

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6 Responses to Happiness Boot Camp: This Recruit Focused on What’s Important

  1. Thanks for the many moments of “yay you, I could do it too”. That you asked for a prescription of help for those exact items you needed to be helped with, Permission to let go and I love the ‘psychic space’. And, where many parents save for children who want nothing to do with the old stuff later, thankfully yours happily wanted to have the bits you’d saved. They must really love you.

    • Awwwe…thanks, Shalagh. My kids are special people and I’m happy they want to preserve a bit of their childhood. And I will be happy to pass the tangibles off to them. Lessening my psychic load is important to me.

  2. Lisa Tognola says:

    Sounds incredibly therapeutic! We could all benefit from some cleansing and bonding!

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